Time! These days I am doing a lot of grumbling about not enough time, wasted time, quality time, wait time, supper time, and not enough bed time. In the classroom, I see teachers being very mindful of timetables for learning standards, time until recess, lunch, or a specialist, and most of all the time their students need to really learn. At the same time teachers are really struggling with lack of time and are understandably upset when more standards are expected to be learned by younger and younger children often using new curriculum their experience has taught them will not be successful. As a parent, when I send my children off to school, it seems like they are there for a LONG time – and I am hoping that as well as learning and as part of their learning, they are having enough recess time, time to actually eat their lunch, time for their day to be enriched by the arts, and lots of time engaged by all that their teacher has to offer. Well, now that I am actually spending entire days in the classroom, I see that there is not enough time for all of that in the school day, even though the teachers want the same things for their students as the parents do. So, how do we prioritize? As a mom, my children are the priority, but as a mom in school and soon to be working, I am also attempting to relinquish my old priorities as a stay-at-home mom (which my family has become very accustomed to) and reshape those priorities into new ones of teaching self-sufficiency to my family and giving myself more time to be successful in a new way. For teachers, children are also the priority, particularly children’s learning. I witness teachers reprioritizing what is most important for children to learn every day. Many days all that was planned does not happen, because in the moment the teacher sees the students need more time with their learning or maybe they just really need “choice time” that day because the learning’s been more of a challenge than expected. After the students leave though, teachers who were so patient and generous with their students minutes before, are voicing their worry about being behind for whatever point in the school year it is. How do we keep the “wait time” it takes for learning to turn it into knowledge a priority in a world with a race to the top where runners are not allowed to go at their own pace or even to stay behind for awhile and take in the view?
Jeff Utecht’s blog Evaluating Technology Use in the Classroom and Steve Inskeep’s interview with Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy about the district’s $1 billion iPad initiative have me wondering if technology is often used as a Band-Aid by administrators to show they are keeping up with the times and working towards improving their students’ understanding of technology. This is not to say that technology cannot aid teachers and students immensely in the classroom when used correctly and productively. My bigger question is can it be used properly when adequate and ongoing professional development for teachers is not provided or sufficient. In a Los Angeles Times article, it states that teachers received three days of training for the new iPad use AND the state’s new learning standards. (Curriculum by Pearson Publ. adhering to the Common Core came preloaded on the iPads). These seem like two enormous topics that perhaps should not have been lumped together, and after witnessing experienced teachers in their new multi-million dollar school struggle with a new literacy curriculum after only receiving a few hours of training regarding it, I wonder if money would be better spent paying teachers for their time to really learn new teaching methods well instead of on fancy devices or facilities (or most preferably in addition to).
Prior to starting this teaching certification program, a friend on the board of my daughter’s previous elementary school’s foundation complained that hardly any of the teachers attended training on how to use the iPads the foundation had purchased for the teachers. What I failed to think of or ask at that time was, “When was this training? Who chose the type of training? Did they know it was quality training? Were the teachers paid for their time? Had the teachers told the foundation that iPads were something they wanted in their classrooms?”
It seems to me that the same evidence based teaching methods that teachers are required to practice (rightly so) with their students also should be required of teachers’ training and ongoing professional development. Right now, LAUSD teachers are enthusiastic and gave the training high approval ratings, so hopefully this $500 million project ($30 million spent so far) will be an example of how to do technology in the classroom on a broad scale the right way (LA Daily News & LA School Report). I’m sure every tax payer in Los Angeles, especially the school board and Superintendent Deasy are hoping so, but I’m mostly hoping so for the teachers and their students.